Creating HDR Images in Lightroom®
HDR. So caveat here, I don't do HDR that often because we have these stellar cameras, and you don't need to do it that often these days. I'm gonna show you an image, where is this image? Just to give you an idea why. Let me look in raw images, this guy right here. And if I reset this image, it's pretty dark, deep, shadows in the bottom, and pretty stinkin' bright up there. And I was shocked that my D810 could hold the highlights and the shadows in the raw processing, and it didn't end up blowing out either within the camera. And there was a giant range of tones in this image. This is Canyon Lands National Park in Utah. So I mean, the beautiful thing about modern cameras, Sony, Cannon, Nikon, that have wide dynamic range, my Hasselblad is wider than any camera I own. It's like 15 stops, you can't blow out highlights on that camera, it's almost impossible. Like I can overexpose by three stops and still not blow out highlights on that camera because it's 16 bit, anyway, different story. Y...
ou're essentially getting HDR images with every single shot. It's just a matter of how you adjust the sliders to make it look quote, unquote, "HDR," or what you call HDR in terms of... There's an HDR look that's very crunchy, that's not technically pure HDR. It's just whatever the standard look is these days, and I'm not criticizing at all. It's up to you if that's what you want. What I would say is be careful going too far. And let me go back down to my images I was gonna put together. HDR, so this is a shot I did. Typically, when you're shooting HDR, you do a couple shots. You're locked off on a tripod so that the scene is not changing. This is Grand Teton National Park in one of the cabins there, looking out at the mountains, and I shot it, what lens is this actually? 24 millimeter, F11 here, and then I varied the shutter speed to give me three different options so that, let me, sorry. Blow that up bigger so you can see what they are. So darker inside, this is exposing for outside. This is kind of a middle one where it's starting to blow out outside, and then it's fully blown out outside, but now we have detail in the cabin. So I wanna put these together as a HDR image, and I'm gonna select, whoa, what just happened? Let me grab this and move it back, or just hit shift F, there we go. That'll put us back in the center in there. I'm gonna select these three images and just go up here. It's the same place as the panorama and just select HDR and again, dang, in the old days, HDR was kind of a pain to do. Now, it's so simple, it's kinda like, "Why wouldn't you do it," it's kind of a good back-up plan. There are still lots of issues with HDR in terms of color fringing and lining up the corners 'cause even if you have the camera on the tripod with these high-res cameras, if you don't set the camera up, the mirror slap can actually shake the cameras so that they're slightly off from each other. And when there could be ghosting, there could be all kinds of effects, and we'll see it here. And we can show the ghost overlay there, and show, well it's fixing the grass so the bushes out there, that's good. Auto-align, that's good. I typically just stick with low and don't go too far. You can experiment and export them. You can't really zoom in and see which one of these is doing better than the others so you have to basically make four different versions of your HDR image here and then analyze them after the fact. So you hit merge, and it's gonna create again a DNG raw file so I don't have to work this up before the fact. I can work it up after the fact, which is beautiful. And depending on the size of your file or your camera, the resolution of your camera and how many images you took 'cause you could take 12 images at different exposure settings to put together. This one's just simple, I did three here which is kind of the minimum I would say. One at the exposure the camera said, then one above and one below. Just for speed so it didn't take forever for this to build the image here, and alright, so there it popped up right here, I believe. And if we go into development module, you'll see there's your image, and if we go over here to the corners, this is where it starts to get ugly fast. So that's a problem, and I could go back and create a different HDR and maybe auto-align that a little better and choose high or medium and play with that. I gotta say, there is a bunch of different software options out there besides Lightroom that might be way more powerful than Lightroom in terms of doing HDR images, depending on what you're doing and what your intent is. I haven't used many of those pieces of software like Affinity, or I can't remember the one. There's a really popular one out there that Trey Radcliffe helped designed, Aurora, I think it is. I don't have any experience with that. It may work great so you might investigate some of those if you do a lot of HDR. One thing I will note, some of the best HDR work I have ever seen has been done by a friend who lives a hundred yards down the street from me. His name is Jamey Stillings. He's a very well-known commercial photographer. If you wanna see what I consider some of the best HDR work done in the professional world, go to his website and look at his bridge images of the bridge over Hoover Dam. This is how high-end HDR is done, it's not done like this. You shoot all your different images, you layer 'em in Photoshop, and you go in, and you start painting out sections to reveal different exposures on different parts of the image, and it takes hours. And we're talking days sometimes to produce these images, but it looks exactly like your eye saw it, or it looks like your eye would image it. I mean, it looks so true to life and not HDR in any shape. You would never even know it's HDR because it's so true to how your eyes would see it or even better than your eyes can see it. So that's just, I'm not harping on HDR, the look. I mean, there's a guy, Jim Fiscus, who invented it 15, 18 years ago on film and scanned it into Photoshop and did this, and he was the first guy to really perfect HDR, what we call HDR today. He didn't call it HDR, and those images, man, everybody in the advertising world copied poor Jim Fiscus like there was no tomorrow and are still copying him because it's a cool look. I mean, honestly, if you've got a cool image, and it's worked up well, it can be amazingly, it's like art. It's kind of gone beyond the photograph, and it's still popular in the advertising world so maybe go look at some Jim Fiscus's old work. It's F-I-S-C-U-S, amazing photography still. He doesn't do the HDR look as often as he used to. He's moved on from it, and there's lots of great work to look at out there, but on the HDR thing, since time is flying here, one thing I wanna note is if I go to one of these single images here and look at, so maybe I go back here. So this image you're looking at, it looks pitch black in those shadows. This is a Nikon D810, and 99.9 percent of time if I'm doing a quote, unquote, "HDR" look, I'm doing it from a single image because the sensors are so good these days that I can just go over here in the shadows and go wing, bang, boom. HDR, no problem, no edge effects, no problem. I can pull the highlight slider and adjust that out there. As long as I expose for those highlights and don't blow them out, I can recover almost any shadow and almost no noise penalty. So if I go in here, sure there's a little noise, what was I shooting at, 400? So it's a 36 megapixel image, you'd have to make a print like the size of that wall over there to see that image, that noise like that, and even then, does anybody care? So something to think about, like the movie, "The Revenant." I don't know if you guys have seen this. I'm just kinda droppin' back into stories. With cinema these days, they are exposing a completely different way. Like we talked about earlier, they're protecting the highlights, knowing that they can pull up the shadows in post, and that's how they're getting some of these cinematic looks without blowing out highlights with digital video or with my D850 or the Hasselblad or any of the modern cameras, the Sony's, the Canon's. This is possible depending on how good their sensor is, will tell you how much noise comes out of those shadows when you pull up the shadow slider. But this is pretty phenomenal stuff that we're capable of doing this straight off one single image. I mean, we're getting to a great place in digital photography.